LATIN – apologeticus GREEK – apologetikos Apologetics: “The branch of theology that is concerned with defending or proving the truth of Christian doctrines” (The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 4th edition, Houghton Mifflin Company, 2009).
- MESSAGE FROM THE PRESIDENT. Scott Gordon explores the problem of critics who attack and ridicule teachings that they claim are true LDS doctrines but which “just ain’t so.”
- IN THE NEWS. Richard Bushman has accepted an appointment in the School of Religion at Claremont Graduate University.
- IN THE NEWS. The Church has announced a change in the Introduction to the Book of Mormon.
- RESOURCES ON THE WEB. Meridian magazine has published an article by John Tvedtnes on deification.
- RESOURCES ON THE WEB. Several timelines have been created to summarize the events in 1829 related to the translation of the Book of Mormon.
- RESOURCES ON THE WEB. Daniel Peterson gives a brief synopsis of the recent joint AAR/SBL conference.
- NEW ON THE WEBSITE. “The Fallacy of Fundamentalist Assumptions.” Blake Ostler compares LDS and orthodox Christian beliefs about God in his 2005 FAIR Conference presentation.
- NEW ON THE WEBSITE. “When Souls Had Wings: What the Western Tradition Has to teach Us About Pre-Existence.” Terry Givens discusses extracanonical references and traditions about human premortal existence in his 2007 FAIR Conference presentation.
- NEW ON THE WEBSITE. “Is the Church Archives Closed?” In his 2007 FAIR Conference presentation, Steven Olsen reponds to charges that the Church hides damaging information and documents by closing the Church Archives.
- ASK THE APOLOGIST. Got a question you are dying to ask? Here’s how.
- FAIR TOPICAL GUIDE. The Topical Guide on the FAIR Web site is one of the most popular resources offered. Learn what is available and help us expand our references.
- FAIR WIKI. The FAIR Wiki is an excellent resource for someone looking for a summary of an issue and for pointers to more detailed information.
- FAIR LDS BOOKSTORE. The Bookstore is offering three specials in time for Christmas: two great DVDs and the popular “Offenders for a Word.”
- ARTICLE SUBMISSIONS. Interested in writing for FAIR? Learn how you can have your apologetics work published.
- PUBLISHING NOTES. Learn how you can become more involved in FAIR and how you can reuse the material we publish.
- FAIR JOURNAL ARCHIVES. All of the FAIR Journal issues since October 2001 are on the FAIR web site.
MESSAGE FROM THE PRESIDENT
It Just Ain’t So
A popular nineteenth-century American humorist who went by the stage name of Artemus Ward once said, “It ain’t so much the things we don’t know that get us into trouble. It’s the things we do know that just ain’t so.”
With Mitt Romney running for President of the United States, LDS beliefs continue to be misrepresented in the national spotlight. In the national press, there are many things that the press knows about Mormons that simply “ain’t so.”
For example, a common theme that is raised is that Mormons are, or at least were, more racist than other churches in America. This theme is echoed in blogs across the Internet and was discussed on at least one national radio show. The claim was made on the radio show that Mormons are racist because the Church teaches that blacks followed Satan’s plan in the preexistence.
This is completely false. Only those who followed the Savior came to this earth. Those who followed Satan were cast out.
It is true that African-Americans were not treated well in America. From the time they were brought to American shores until the late 1960s or early 1970s they were mostly treated as second class citizens–or worse. In the LDS Church, African-Americans weren’t ordained to the priesthood and weren’t able to participate in the lay ministry from about 1846 until 1978. Prior to 1846, during Joseph Smith’s time, several African-Americans were ordained. Even Brigham Young ordained one black man in 1846. Then, during Brigham Young’s time, it was decided–unknown if it was by revelation, interpretation or misunderstanding–that African-Americans couldn’t participate in the lay ministry of the LDS Church. Why that happened will be left for a discussion at a later date. But, the questions then become, how does the LDS beliefs and practices toward African-Americans compare to the rest of America, and are Mormons really more racist than others?
While I’m certain that there were some members who hid their racism behind the priesthood ban prior to 1978, a survey done in 1967 by Lester E. Bush, Jr., and Armand L. Mauss, which was published in the book “Neither White Nor Black” (Midvale, Utah: Signature Books, 1984, pg. 21-23), showed–paraphrasing the authors–that the LDS were no more likely to give anti-black responses than were the Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Lutherans (whether American or Missouri Synod), or Baptists (whether American or Southern). Furthermore, the Mormon responses were very nearly the same as the average Protestant’s.
While the history of how African-Americans were treated in the LDS Church is not perfect, we do score better in some areas. American Protestants had approximately forty thousand ministers as members of the Ku Klux Klan with Protestant ministers serving as Grand Dragons in Pennsylvania, Texas, North Dakota, and Colorado (Curtiss Paul DeYoung, Michael O. Emerson, George Yancey, and Karen Chai Kim, United by Faith: The Multiracial Congregations as an Answer to the Problem of Race [Oxford: Oxford University Press, Inc., 2003], p 60).
Several Protestant denominations formed separate congregations and even separate churches for the sole purpose of keeping blacks out. Needless to say, there were no black ministers in those congregations.
We also have to note that while some religious denominations continue to have difficulties integrating congregations, within the LDS community integration is an accepted fact of life. On a personal note, June 8, 1978 was one of the happiest days of my life.
Another example of sharing things that “just ain’t so” occurred on a national television show where Mitt Romney’s faith was recently discussed. During the conversation, it became evident that the pundits assumed that believing Mormons are controlled from Salt Lake City. There seemed to be no awareness on the part of the participants of the lack of political interaction of the LDS Church or of the fifteen current members of Congress who are LDS.
However, we are proud to admit instruction from Salt Lake City: We are instructed to be honest, to love our neighbors, and to follow Jesus’ example. As for politics in the LDS Church, we are instructed to study the issues and vote for the best candidate, whoever that may be. The LDS Church stands out for its refusal to dispense politics from the pulpit. As Joseph Smith stated, “Teach them correct principles and let them govern themselves.”
The LDS “core beliefs” that our critics preach are frequently misrepresented if not twisted beyond recognition, flat out wrong, or wrested from random statements torn from historical context. It amazes me that some anti-Mormons claim that Mormons don’t know their own beliefs and only anti-Mormons know what Mormons “really” believe. How can we believe something if we don’t even know what it is? Or another way of looking at it is if a subject isn’t taught in church because it is a secret belief, how long does it take before nobody believes it because nobody has heard of it? It can’t be a belief of the Mormons if the Mormons don’t believe it.
It is time to correct the misrepresentations. No longer should we allow others who are unfamiliar with our theology to define our beliefs. But sometimes we feel we don’t know what to say. Sometimes we may feel uncomfortable with some of the accusations brought up by anti-Mormons. If that is the case, you will probably want to familiarize yourselves with the book by Daniel C. Peterson and Steven Ricks titled “Offenders for a Word.” This book reveals many of the tactics some anti-Mormons employ in attacking the Church and how to see through their word games. You can find the book here:
Offenders for a Word, FAIR Bookstore
But, there are two sides of LDS apologetics. One is refuting what we don’t believe; the other is understanding what we do believe and keeping current with the growing body of LDS scholarship. A new DVD has just been released entitled, “Journey of Faith: The New World.”
This DVD gives thoughtful insights from dozens of top scholars concerning Book of Mormon scholarship. Mormon’s description of the land, religious history, culture, and traditions create a fascinating mosaic as presented in the DVD. Stunningly beautiful images filmed on location in Guatemala and Mexico combine with the art of Joseph Brickey to illuminate the culture of the Book of Mormon.
And, if you haven’t seen it yet, you will want to order the first DVD from the series, “Journey of Faith.” This DVD interviews many LDS and non-LDS scholars. It traces Lehi’s journey and life in the Old World and is well worth watching.
Journey of Faith (DVD), FAIR Bookstore
Both of these DVDs will deepen your understanding of the Book of Mormon and help you understand this sacred text. Understanding our faith, and understanding how others misrepresent our faith will help you correct those things that people know that “just ain’t so.”
–Scott Gordon President
IN THE NEWS: Richard Bushman Accepts Position at Claremont Graduate University
Richard L. Bushman has accepted the appointment as Howard W. Hunter Visiting Professor in Mormon Studies in the School of Religion at Claremont Graduate University.
You can read more about Dr. Bushman and this appointment at
You can read more about the CGU Mormon Studies Chair Campaign at the following:
The Howard W. Hunter Foundation has commented on this event.
“We are delighted to see that Richard Bushman has accepted the position in Mormon Studies at Claremont Graduate University. We believe that this will lead to more scholarship and a better understanding of Mormon theology and doctrine by those not of our faith. Unfortunately, the position will not be permanent unless there are additional contributions to fund the position. If you have an interest and the ability to help with this funding, please contact the Howard W. Hunter Foundation.”
Howard W. Hunter Foundation 61 Montecito Drive Corona del Mar, CA 92625.
IN THE NEWS: Change in the Introduction to the Book of Mormon
In November 2007 the Church commented on a one-word change in the Introduction to the Book of Mormon. The change had originally been made almost a year earlier.
The sentence in the current version had been added in 1981 and read:
“After thousands of years, all were destroyed except the Lamanites, and they are the principal ancestors of the American Indians.”
With the change, the Introduction will now read:
“After thousands of years, all were destroyed except the Lamanites, and they are among the ancestors of the American Indians.”
This change emphasizes the original and central claim of the Book of Mormon to be about ancestors of modern Native Americans without going beyond the text to imply to what extent or in what ways the Lamanites may have been “principal” ancestors.
Following is a response from LDS Church spokesperson Mark Tuttle to inquiries regarding the one-word change in the Book of Mormon’s Introduction:
“The current Introduction page in the Book of Mormon was not part of the original text translated by Joseph Smith, Jr. The Introduction was written and published at the same time additional materials including footnotes and cross references were added in 1981. A one-word change was made to the Introduction in the latest edition of the Book of Mormon published by Doubleday. That change takes into account details of Book of Mormon demography which are not known. The change will be included in the next edition of the Book of Mormon printed by the Church.”
You can read more about this at:
RESOURCES ON THE WEB: MERIDIAN ARTICLE ON DEIFICATION
Meridian, an LDS online e-magazine, recently published and article by John Tvedtnes titled “Partakers of the Divine Nature.” In his article, Tvedtnes discusses early Christian views of deification or theosis, the human acquisition of divine qualities or divine nature. This teaching, so often ridiculed and condemned by anti-Mormons, was a widespread belief in early Christianity and is still found in various forms in modern, non-LDS Christian denominations.
Get more information about this topic on the FAIR website:
and on the FAIR Wiki:
RESOURCES ON THE WEB: TRANSLATION TIME FOR THE BOOK OF MORMON
One amazing aspect of the Book of Mormon is the fact that it took only about 65 days for Joseph Smith to translate the entire book. This is a considerable feat given the book’s length and complexity and the fact that it was done under stressful conditions with limited resources.
There are a number of resources on the Internet that discuss possible chronologies for the Book of Mormon translation process.
The following is an “I Have a Question” article by John Welch in the January 1988 Ensign.
Eldon Watson has created a detailed timeline on his website.
David Keller has organized a chronology in a calendar format.
John Welch and Tim Rathbone wrote the “Encyclopedia of Mormonism” article on the topic that is available from the Neal A. Maxwell Institute.
And finally, the FAIR Wiki has a page devoted to the topic.
These are all excellent resources for learning more about this important aspect of Church history.
RESOURCES ON THE WEB: AAR/SBL CONFERENCE SYNOPSIS
Critics of the Church often ignore LDS apologetic responses, claiming that faithful LDS scholars are biased and produce substandard work not generally accepted outside of LDS circles. This has been a criticism leveled particularly against essays and papers published by FAIR or the Neal A. Maxwell Institute. Dan Peterson recently posted a list of LDS presenters and LDS topics that appeared at the joint American Academy of Religion (AAR) and the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL) conference. The depth and breadth of expertise belies those criticisms.
Read the post:
The Fallacy of Fundamentalist Assumptions
by Blake Ostler
In his presentation at the 2005 FAIR Conference, Blake Ostler reexamines the LDS beliefs relating to the nature of God. Ostler looks at the LDS approach to monotheistic worship, the Creation, the relationship of God and man, and the eternal family. Ostler positions LDS beliefs against certain orthodox Christian theology, such as the dual nature of Christ and the Trinity, and finds that the LDS beliefs in these areas are consistent, logical, and in harmony with biblical texts. Ostlers explains how many critics argue against basic LDS beliefs and shows how these critcisms can be answered.
Read the article:
The Fallacy of Fundamentalist Assumptions by Blake Ostler
When Souls Had Wings: What the Western Tradition Has to teach Us About Pre-Existence
by Terryl Givens
A major difference between the LDS and orthodox Christian views of man is the LDS belief in a premortal life. This important belief affects nearly every aspect of LDS theology: the nature of man, the relationship between God and man, the destiny of man, the purpose of life, and many others. Terry Givens explores extrabiblical texts that show that the idea of a premortal life was known and accepted by some in both ancient times (Christian, Jewish, and pagan alike) and in modern Christian cultures. In his 2007 FAIR Conference presenation, Givens is careful to point out that non-LDS beliefs in a premortal life should not automatically be considered as evidence for LDS beliefs in ancient times, but this belief, which has fallen out of favor of most Christians, fits in well with New Testament and Old Testament references.
As Given points out, “The doctrine of preexistence has persisted with astonishing tenacity across millennia and culture, a tribute in itself, if not to its truth, then to its powerful capacity to satisfy logical, moral, and even aesthetic imperatives of the human heart.”
Read the article:
Is the Church Archives Closed?
by Steven L. Olsen
A common charged leveled by anti-Mormons is that the Church protects itself by hiding important historical documents in an inaccessible archive. Steven Olsen, Associate Managing Director for the Family and Church History Department, dispells these myths in his 2007 FAIR Conference presentation by explaining the hows and whys of the Church Archives. Olsen shows that the Church Archives treats the material in its care with principles and procedures consistent with other archives and libraries.
Read the article:
Is the Church Archives Closed? by Steven L. Olsen
ASK THE APOLOGIST
FAIR invites the public to submit questions relating to LDS beliefs, practices, and history. Some questions are asked sincerely by members and investigators, others are clearly hostile questions challenging the veracity of the Church and its teachings. Many of these responses may end up on the Web site as a FAIR paper or brochure. If you have a question, you may submit it through the FAIR web site.
Questions sent to FAIR will be shared with members of FAIR, so it is not uncommon to receive several responses that approach the issue from different angles.
FAIR TOPICAL GUIDE
The Topical Guide is one of the most important LDS apologetic resources available. If you aren’t familiar with this part of FAIR’s Web site, check it out at
The following are the Topical Guide updates for the month.
Larry E. Morris, “The Conversion of Oliver Cowdery,” JBMS (City Unknown: FARMS, 2007)
Larry Morris does a wonderful and thorough job detailing the events of Oliver’s first encounter with Joseph and the Book of Mormon as well as his subsequent conversion.
Val Larsen, “Killing Laban: The Birth of Sovereignty in the Nephite Constitutional Order,” JBMS (City Unknown: FARMS, 2007)
Most of us cringe when we read how Nephi killed Laban to acquire the brass plates. It seems contrary to commandments not to kill. Val Larsen suggests that the slaying of Laban was a sovereign act that had a clear political purpose.
David B. Cummings, “Three Days and Three Nights: Reassessing Jesus’s Entombment,” JBMS (City Unknown: FARMS, 2007)
“Jesus’s body lay in the tomb, according to most commentators, during a full day (Saturday) and parts of another two days (Friday afternoon and Sunday morning). Yet, according to one key passage in Matthew’s gospel, the Savior drew attention beforehand to this period in the tomb by saying that ‘the Son of man [will] be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth’ (Matthew 12:40). The obvious question is, why the apparent discrepancy? Is there a way to look at Jesus’s entombment that would reconcile what Jesus says here with what we learn elsewhere? Acareful examination of relevant passages, particularly from the Book of Mormon, which brings an unusual set of evidences to the issue, leads to the conclusion that Jesus’s earthly remains were buried Thursday afternoon, not Friday.”
S. Kent Brown, “The Hunt for the Valley of Lemuel,” JBMS (City Unknown: FARMS, 2007)
Dr. Brown examines the possible candidates for the Book of Mormon’s Valley of Lemuel, as well as the evidence from these Old World locations that parallel what we find in the Nephite record.
The FAIR Wiki project was started in 2006 to provide a more flexible and searchable resource for Latter-day Saints and others to get answers to Gospel questions. The Wiki is by design always a “work in progress,” with many editors at FAIR contributing to articles on a daily basis. You can access the FAIR Wiki at:
This month the FAIR Journal focuses attention on two FAIR Wiki pages. The first is a response to the charge that Latter-day Saints are polytheists. This criticism has become quite popular among anti-Mormons over the last several decades and will be found in nearly every anti-Mormon publication and Web site. Go to the link below to see a brief response and links to longer papers and articles on the subject.
Polytheism—Some non-LDS Christian claim that Latter-day Saints are polytheists because we don’t believe the Nicene Creed. Others say Mormons are polytheists because they believe humans can become gods. Is this an accurate characterization of LDS belief? (Link)
The second FAIR Wiki page being highlighted is about the location of the Garden of Eden. Over the years several statements have been made by LDS leaders, including Joseph Smith, about the location of the Garden of Eden. Although this obscure issue is relatively unimportant for Latter-day Saints, critics often use it to attack the Church. The link below discusses the issue and points to additional resources.
FAIR LDS BOOKSTORE
The FAIR LDS Bookstore is excited to offer three great deals for this month, just in time for the Christmas season. These are items that you will want for your own library as well as great gift ideas.
Journey of Faith: The New World
Peter Johnson (Director), Brigham Young University and Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 2007, DVD video, approx. 90 minutes.
This new DVD is a beautiful documentary that examines the latest in Book of Mormon scholarship, providing stunning New World evidences of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. This DVD normally retails for $19.95, but we are offering it at only $15.95. You wonÃt find a better deal on this new DVD anywhere else!
Journey of Faith: Journey of Faith: The Acclaimed Book of Mormon Documentary Tracing Lehi’s Journey
Peter Johnson (Director), Brigham Young University and Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 2005, DVD video, approx. 90 minutes.
This is the original DVD that examines evidences for the Book of Mormon found in the Old World. It makes a great companion to “Journey of Faith: The New World.” We are selling this DVD now on special for $15.95. It normally retails for $19.95. This is a great savings to you.
Offenders for a Word: How Anti-Mormons Play Word Games to Attack Latter-day Saints
Daniel C. Peterson and Stephen D. Ricks, Provo, Utah: Foundation for Ancient Research & Mormon Studies (FARMS) Reprint Edition, 1998, 6×9″ softbound, 255 pages.
“Offenders for a Word” is the classic treatment of the topic of whether Mormons are, indeed, Christians. It examines a wealth of historical and logical evidence that deserve a place on any bookshelf. The book normally retails for $12.95, but is on sale this month for the special price of $9.95.
When this month is over these products will return to their normal retail price. Remember that when you order your books through the FAIR LDS Bookstore you are supporting FAIR.
–FAIR Bookstore Volunteers
We welcome article submissions for the FAIR Web site. If you would like to submit an article, please review the editing guidelines at:
Submit your article to the FAIR Journal Editor. An appropriate article would be one that affirms the truthfulness of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
While LDS apologetics (in the broadest sense) deals with refuting critics of the Church, articles don’t necessarily have to deal with anti-Mormonism, but may deal with some new evidence of the Book of Mormon, some interesting scripture interpretation, a viewpoint or quote from the early Christian Fathers or other historical figure, an interesting lesson idea, an inspiring missionary story, Church history, or your view on a current event related to the Church or a piece from a historical journal.
We may also accept articles from people who are not members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that may not necessarily meet the guidelines of supporting the church if it is a topic of general interest to people involved in apologetics.
A submission may range in length from several pages to a single paragraph.
FAIR is not owned, controlled by or affiliated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. All research and opinions provided in the FAIR Journal and on the FAIR Web site (http://www.fairlds.org) are the sole responsibility of FAIR, and should not be interpreted as official statements of LDS doctrine, belief or practice.
If someone has forwarded this e-journal to you and you would like to join you should go to www.fairlds.org and click on the FAIR Publications link.
If you are very interested in apologetics and would like to actively participate in FAIR you should consider joining our apologetics e-mail list. Visit www.fairlds.org and click on the Join FAIR link to join this list.
If you manage your own e-mail list, and wish to include some of these thoughts or articles on your list, contact us through our Web site, at this page: www.fairlds.org/contact.psp. We have a fairly liberal policy of using our material so long as you contact us first to gain permission and clearly identify that your source was FAIR and by adding a link to the FAIR Web site (www.fairlds.org).
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